Blog: Becky Prestwich

The writer of a new play about fish and chips says the national dish is a constant in a changing society

Hero image

I have been lucky enough to collaborate with Box of Tricks on several projects before Chip Shop Chips. Adam Quayle has directed several of my plays and on one occasion he turned to me and said, somewhat despairingly: “There’s a lot of food on stage in your plays, Becky.” And he’s right – there is. A mother and daughter arguing over how to cook chicken soup. Cheese and pickle sandwiches for a funeral party. A boy and a girl sharing a bag of chips and almost kissing. Food is important. What we eat says something about who we are. So, what does it say about us that one in four potatoes in Britain is served up as chips? Or that for every one branch of McDonalds there are eight chippies? Over 250 million portions of fish and chips are sold in the UK every year. I wanted to write a play exploring why. Is it about nostalgia? Tradition? Comfort? Or just value for money?

The idea came when I was eating in a sit-down chip shop (just before a Box of Tricks production, actually). It was a brilliant place for people watching and it struck me that it could be evocative to tell a story in a room that smelt of chip fat and vinegar, using all the memories those smells conjure. I originally imagined a run in just one chip shop – it was Box of Tricks who suggested touring. As a company, they are at an exciting stage of their organisational development where they’re really exploring how to engage new audiences. This felt like an opportunity to connect with audiences who might not come and see a new play in a studio theatre but who would be interested in a different kind of performance, right on their doorstep.

It was important to me that the play was about lots of chip shop memories – not just my own – so as part of the development process Adam and I worked with community and youth groups, sharing stories and memories. Everyone we met had a story about fish and chips – they were surprising, touching, funny. Themes of romance and family came up again and again. We heard about the childhood excitement of chips in front of the telly and the unexpected romance of eating a fish supper on a bench instead of going to a fancy restaurant. People shared their rituals – from sit-down fish and chips on a Friday to sneaking scraps on the way home. We talked a lot about community too – many of the older people we spoke to remembered the name of the local chip shop owner, from the glorious Lily Ricketts to the dubious Greasy Doreen. We talked about how what we ate had changed – how no one has a deep fat fryer at home anymore and how eating out is no longer a special treat. It soon became clear that this should be an intergenerational story – using fish and chips to explore how the world has changed (and how it’s stayed the same). We developed ideas for two love stories – one about a couple on the brink of adulthood and another about an older couple, looking back on their younger selves.

The action of the play takes place at the grand reopening of Booth and Sons Fish and Chips. After his father’s death, Eric has come home with grand plans to turn the place into the kind of trendy chippy that serves halloumi as the veggie option. On opening night his childhood sweetheart, Christine, turns up. They haven’t seen each other in over 40 years. Christine’s now a grandma and a widow and she’s wondering if there’s still time for one last romance. Alongside Christine and Eric, we see Lee and Jasmine – two 18 year olds who may or may not be about to kiss. So really it’s a play about possibility and first love and romance and nostalgia. And you get to eat chips.

There is actually a little surge of plays about fish and chips – with Mikron’s One of Each and Bolton Octagon/ Freedom Studios’ Chip Shop the Musical. The plays are all very different, but I think what connects them is an exploration of why, in a society where so much is changing, our passion for fish and chips remains.

This article was originally published in 2016. Chip Shop Chips heads out on a new 2018 tour starting at the Dukes in Lancaster on 23 Feb, then touring nationally untill the 21 April. Find tour dates at

Interact: Responses to Blog: Becky Prestwich

  • Interviewing Becky Prestwich – Chloe's Silver Arts Award
    27 Jun 2018 13:42
    […] Image: Becky Prestwich, Big Issue North […]

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published.